Vegetation assessment at Bago State Forest

Alexander Pecenko (u5333012)

My work experience for the ENVS3039 Biodiversity Conservation course (4–7 April 2015) involved assisting Dr Heather Kieth with data collection at Bago State Forest, NSW, for research of the forest’s carbon cycle (more information here).

Bago State Forest MapLocation of Bago State Forest (Google Maps)

S2110043Vertical profile of Bago State Forest (Photo credit: author)

The fieldwork had three primary aims: (1) assessing the subordinate (i.e. undergrowth) vegetation; (2) recording and tagging woody seedlings; and (3) determining the state of the coarse woody debris. The fieldwork was carried out on a one hectare plot, demarcated by 110 pegs (Grid Point Map).

Field site grid points

Grid Point Map (created by Dr Kieth): grey rectangles demarcate the subordinate vegetation assessment area, and green the seedling tagging transects.

Subordinate vegetation

We assessed along six transects (Grid Point Map), at 10 m intervals, the subordinate vegetation cover within 1 m2 quadrats.

subordinate vegetation analysis quadrat

A quadrat used in the subordinate vegetation assessment (Photo credit: author)

We estimated and recorded the types of vegetation ground cover. Most plants were known; the samples of those not recognised were collected for later identification.

Woody seedling

All woody seedlings in six 20 m transects (Grid Point Map) were tagged. I prepared the transects and recorded the species of seedlings, their heights and positions.

Seedling tag

A tag with seedling number for subsequent identification (Photo credit: author)


Recording data in the rain

Recording the seedling data: when in the field, the weather is not always your friend (Photo credit: Dr Kieth)

Having anticipated that a lush forest would harbour a wide range of undergrowth species, I was surprised by their low diversity: there were predominantly only three types of  shrubs (Mountain pepper, Coffee berry, Handsome flat-pea).

Woody debris

The coarse woody debris on ten 60 m transects was assessed: I measured the diameter of the logs crossing the transects, and determined their state of decay.

Log measurement

Measuring the diameter of the logs with callipers (Photo credit: Dr Kieth)

I learned how to distinguish, by sight, the standard five log decay classes, and estimated the percentage of void (hollow). I had expected more accurate measurement methods, however, I learned that estimation by sight is the most feasible one (more information here).



Witnessing the extensive logging of Bago State Forest, I became strongly aware that sustainable management of these habitats is vital to maximise their ecosystem services and biodiversity.

Pine plantation

Pinus radiata plantations cover vast expanses of Bago State Forest (Photo credit: author)
Eucalypt plantationCommercial harvesting of Eucalyptus delegatensis and E. dalrympleana (Photo credit: author)

The vegetation data collected during this fieldwork will be used to determine the interactions in carbon exchange among the soil, live and dead plant matter, and atmosphere. This research is important for better understanding of the implications of climate change.

The fieldwork was a very fascinating and enjoyable experience where I observed first-hand how scientific research is carried out. Throughout the four days it rained a lot and hence, a positive attitude, dedication, a good sense of humour, and wet weather gear were vital for making the fieldwork a success and fun.

About Biodiversity Conservation Blog

I am an Associate Professor at The Australian National University and convene a (very awesome) course called Biodiversity Conservation. Myself and students in the course contribute to this blog.
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One Response to Vegetation assessment at Bago State Forest

  1. Thanks Alexander. This is interesting research. Yes, some of our field techniques are not sophisticated, but sometimes a more complicated alternative is not worth the effort for the marginal gain in information. I’m keen to hear more about the area of knowledge that this research seeks to inform. Cheers, Phil

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